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Wines worth uncorking: Great finds in recent blind tastings

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This week's blind tasting

TOP PICK

Sangiacomo

2017 Roberts Road Vineyard, Petaluma Gap, Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, 14.5% alcohol, $70. ★★★★★

What makes this pinot a standout is its gorgeous fruit –– a full spectrum of flavors –– coupled with crisp acidity. It has aromas and flavors of cherry, raspberry, strawberry, a hint of pomegranate, orange peel and mineral. This pinot has impeccable balance and finishes crisp. The purity of fruit in this pinot noir is absolutely striking.

TASTY ALTERNATIVES

Cline, 2017 Ancient Vines, Contra Costa County Mourvedre, 15.5%, $22. ★★★★½: A striking, full-bodied mourvedre, with a full range of flavors. It has notes of cherry, a hint of raspberry, plum and a kiss of chocolate. This Rhone red is robust –– powerful and lush –– and it’s such an incredible steal for this caliber of wine.

Bella Grace Vineyards, 2016 Amador County Old Vine Zinfandel, 14.7%, $29. ★★★★½: This is a pretty zin with aromas and flavors of bright cherry, subtle oak and white pepper. It’s a tempered, yet tasty zin, with an undercurrent of spice. This is an elegant, food-friendly incarnation of zin that’s just lovely.

Shafer, 2017 Red Shoulder Ranch Napa Valley Carneros Chardonnay, 14.9%, $52. ★★★★½: This chardonnay is a standout because of its layered flavors and generous, bold fruit. Rich and full-bodied, yet balanced. Crisp acid tempers this voluptuous chardonnay. Aromas and flavors of pineapple, mango and apricot. Lingering finish, with notes of guava and citrus. Impressive.

Peju, 2018 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, 13.8%, $25. ★★★★½: This is a lovely sauvignon blanc with layered aromas and flavors, buoyed by crisp acidity. Aromas of nectarine and pineapple give way to apricot and tangerine on the palate. Balanced. Finishes crisp. A refreshing take on this varietal.

For thrill seekers who double as wine lovers, the blind tasting offers the palate pure suspense.

Sipping through a flight of bagged bottles is like reading a page turner, a mystery you can’t wait to solve.

This week we take a look at some of the captivating finds in The Press Democrat’s blind tastings of 2019. This roundup is a sampling of recent top scoring wines in a range of varietals, with the winemakers offering their take on what made them standouts.

With the holidays in the offing, this recap offers some outstanding wines worth uncorking with family and friends. Whether you stock them at your house or order them at a restaurant, this tasty lineup of wines won’t disappoint.

One of the most impressive was the five-star Sangiacomo, 2017 Roberts Road Vineyard, Petaluma Gap, Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir at $70. Winemaker James MacPhail of Sonoma’s Sangiacomo said, “I think what contributed to this wine from a production standpoint is that we were able to ferment and age each of the three clones separately, and treat each ferment slightly different. Pinot noir is all about the layers, and when you are able to create layers through clonal selection and small tweaks in the cellar, this all contributes to the final wine and its layers.”

A steal that turned heads was the Cline, 2017 Ancient Vines Contra Costa County Mourvedre at $22.

“Once a consumer tastes this wine, they will buy it again, and they will tell their friends about it,” said Charlie Tsegeletos, director of winemaking for Sonoma’s Cline Cellars. “It’s very reasonably priced considering that the vines are rare, 100 years old, planted on their own rootstock and farmed like they were 100 years ago.”

An interesting take on zin was the Bella Grace Vineyards, 2016 Amador County Old Vine Zinfandel at $29.

“Seven years of drought led up to this wine’s harvest. Every year the vines had to work harder to find the water,” said co-owner and winemaker Michael Havill of Amador County’s Bella Grace Vineyards. “The flavors became much more concentrated, and it’s always about the grapes. If you have high-quality grapes, you can make a great wine.”

A chardonnay lover’s chardonnay that managed to have impeccable balance was the Shafer, 2017 Red Shoulder Ranch, Napa Valley Carneros at $52. Elias Fernandez, winemaker of Napa Valley’s Shafer Vineyards, said, “My goal is to produce a wine that has the hallmarks of the perfumey, exotic, extraordinary fruit from our incredible vineyard. I want to let the fruit from this site shine through in a way that’s delicious and authentic.”

A sauvignon blanc with an unusual twist was the Peju, 2018 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc at $25. Sara Fowler, vice president of winemaking and vineyard operations of Napa Valley’s Peju Winery, said, “We had several calculated picks. We had an early pick for some good natural acidity and citrus notes, a mid-pick for more tropical notes and a later pick that showcases more of the peach and flowery characters.”

You can reach Wine Writer Peg Melnik at peg.melnik@pressdemocrat.com or 707-521-5310.

This week's blind tasting

TOP PICK

Sangiacomo

2017 Roberts Road Vineyard, Petaluma Gap, Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, 14.5% alcohol, $70. ★★★★★

What makes this pinot a standout is its gorgeous fruit –– a full spectrum of flavors –– coupled with crisp acidity. It has aromas and flavors of cherry, raspberry, strawberry, a hint of pomegranate, orange peel and mineral. This pinot has impeccable balance and finishes crisp. The purity of fruit in this pinot noir is absolutely striking.

TASTY ALTERNATIVES

Cline, 2017 Ancient Vines, Contra Costa County Mourvedre, 15.5%, $22. ★★★★½: A striking, full-bodied mourvedre, with a full range of flavors. It has notes of cherry, a hint of raspberry, plum and a kiss of chocolate. This Rhone red is robust –– powerful and lush –– and it’s such an incredible steal for this caliber of wine.

Bella Grace Vineyards, 2016 Amador County Old Vine Zinfandel, 14.7%, $29. ★★★★½: This is a pretty zin with aromas and flavors of bright cherry, subtle oak and white pepper. It’s a tempered, yet tasty zin, with an undercurrent of spice. This is an elegant, food-friendly incarnation of zin that’s just lovely.

Shafer, 2017 Red Shoulder Ranch Napa Valley Carneros Chardonnay, 14.9%, $52. ★★★★½: This chardonnay is a standout because of its layered flavors and generous, bold fruit. Rich and full-bodied, yet balanced. Crisp acid tempers this voluptuous chardonnay. Aromas and flavors of pineapple, mango and apricot. Lingering finish, with notes of guava and citrus. Impressive.

Peju, 2018 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, 13.8%, $25. ★★★★½: This is a lovely sauvignon blanc with layered aromas and flavors, buoyed by crisp acidity. Aromas of nectarine and pineapple give way to apricot and tangerine on the palate. Balanced. Finishes crisp. A refreshing take on this varietal.

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